Autumn in Italy! Grape harvest and wine making, olive gathering, and oil pressing. Ah, this is autumn in Italy! And right in our own garden, at that! Hubby harvests our olives — the time-honored way. Hand-picked, one-by-one. He probably wouldn’t want to try it with a hundred trees, but with our two it’s not too bad.
Two traditional olive-picking methods exist.
They can either be hand picked and dropped into a basket that gets tied around the waist. Or they can be combed off the branches and allowed to fall on to a net on the ground. The comb or rake (as shown below) is usually plastic so it won’t harm or bruise the olives. It gets attached to a long handle making it easy to use from the ground. You can learn more about olive harvest methods here.
For our two trees, hand picking works fine. And we get enough olives to last the year, and to give away! Which, around Christmas-time, will be ready to sample! For you have to cure olives before eating them. Freshly picked olives are much too bitter to eat.
Our olives are known as the black and white variety which, in reality, is purple and green. They’re quite small, and really better for oil olive than for eating.
But with proper curing, and patience, we get a pretty nice olive, 100% organic! And oh how we enjoy them!
- Wash the ripe, firm olives, letting them dry a bit.
- Put them in jars and cover with sea salt and water, about a 50/50 solution.
- How much salt? Add a raw egg to water, add salt until the egg starts floating.
- Let them season, usually a month or two.
- Seal the jars. No canning process necessary, as the salt preserves them.
- Add seasonings. Try lemon or orange peel, garlic or onions, and oregano.
But there are many recipes around for curing olives. Like this one from Sicily that I’d like to try! Hand-picking olives sounds like a lot of work. But you know, it’s really quite special!
Image credits: People harvesting olives by Matteo X from Flickr; CC-BY-2.0 | Others are mine.